An Open Letter to Other Recent Open Letters

An Open Letter to Other Recent Open Letters April 10, 2013

by Calulu

This isn’t quite a mea maxima culpa, but I did want to take some time to talk about the recent posting of two Open Letter posts involving the Hyles family, the Schaap family and the continuing mess at First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.

One thing I have learned from the letters, the authors and the commenters is that there is still a tremendous amount of hurt in most everyone connected to the church. The ugly episodes that happened at First Baptist are still playing out in spiritual abuse and different places on the spiritual abuse recovery journey in so many. I know many of you here were triggered in many different painful ways once the second letter was posted. For that I am truly sorry as it was not the intention of either Vyckie or myself to harm our readers.

My email box pretty much exploded to the point where I simply stopped answering the emails because of the time factors involved. So it was felt that explaining why we posted the letters would be a better thing than spending a week or so answering emails in spare moments of the day.

Should have explained where we were trying to go and change here at NLQ before posting the last letter.

Many different things get posted here but it doesn’t automatically mean that either Vyckie or myself agree with everything said in every article placed on the website.  We try to chose articles or blog postings that will resonate with our readers or highlight some aspect of harmful theology. The content comes in from a large variety of sources.

The Open Letter to Linday Hyles I’d read on Jenny’s blog and Jenny had forwarded a link to Vyckie. We made the decision to post the letter because it was from a viewpoint never seen here before, from someone still in fundamentalism who’d had significant spiritual abuse done to them. Make no mistake, Jenny has suffered from bad theology and spiritual abuse as much as most of us here have. I was saddened to see her being piled up on, that she was spiritually abused all over again by some of the comments.

And yes, I’ll agree that the tone of the letter wasn’t particularly nice, but it was honestly what the writer felt.

It wasn’t posted because we 100% agreed with everything in it. But it did have some valid points and started off some interesting conversations in the comments.

What you may not be aware of is that we have quite a few readers that never post in the comments that are still in the patriarchal or some form of spiritually harmful that we’d like to help, or at least make them think about what it is they are really believing.  In recent discussions Vyckie and I have been discussing the best ways to draw those hurting people still in those spiritually abuse situations. How best do we draw them in and make them part of the conversation?

Vyckie and I don’t have any hard and fast answers to that question The Open Letter from Jenny that was posted was part of our first attempts to add those hurting people to the conversation here.

So we’re putting it to you, our readers, what are the best ways we can help those that are being spiritually abused or have suffered spiritual abuse but stayed in the risky situations? Should we have pieces written by those folks? Should we keep the tone of the articles only from those that have left spiritual abuse? Can we have civil discussions on tough issues? Can we welcome and help them deal with Religious Trauma Syndrome? We need your help if we’re going to try and reach those that need it the most.

Comments open below

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Not religious — never have been — but I do make the mistake of posting things without comment. Often I’ll send a link to my beloved to stimulate conversation. I know what *I* see in the link. What does *he* see? But it doesn’t work. He doesn’t want to read the whole thing trying to guess what the interesting part is supposed to be and he just gets annoyed.

    I think that if you see a nugget in something complicated, you need to identify what you think the nugget is. Perhaps rather than reposting the whole letter, you could have said something like, “Jenny was obviously triggered by Linda’s letter, and it evoked painful memories of always being second-best. Here she describes some of the ways the church made it clear to her that she was second-best.” And then just quoted the nugget about exclusion. Alternatively, “Jenny was obviously triggered by Linda’s letter, and it evoked painful memories of the lies the church hierarchy was based on. Here she describes how Linda’s lies continue to follow and hurt her as an adult.” And then just quoted the nugget about Linda being a liar.

    People can always go back to the source and read the whole, complicated thing, but you can present just the part you find valuable for discussion.

  • Mercy

    I like Alison’s ideas about clearly stating why letters like this are being used.

    Along the same lines, I still own several books with which I highly disagree. I worry sometimes that my children or acquaintances will see them on my shelves and think I believe what’s in them. But I like to have them as a first-person source and a record of false teaching that otherwise people sometimes try to deny or downplay. Them: “He never taught that.” Me: “Actually, yes, and here it is on page 38.”

    So reading her perspective can give us insight into how she thinks. However, it was a cruel angry letter in which she primarily attacked another victim instead of the true perpetrator or the system that allowed Hyles so much power.

  • The_L

    This is one reason why I’m kind of disappointed to no longer have a copy of AiG’s The Answers Book. At least the memories of it, and how I used to believe that malarkey, have helped to keep me humble…

  • Michelle M

    Jenny’s letter should have been introduced with more of an explanation for what it was. In my opinion, it should not have been posted at all because it was abusive and hateful, which is the opposite of helpful, which is what I have found this site to be for the past several years. But this isn’t my blog, so I would have at least appreciated more of an introduction so I knew what I was getting into when I started reading.

    As for the people who are still ‘in’ who you would like to draw into the conversation–I was in an abusive marriage for many years. One day I found a message board of women who were in verbally abusive relationships. The board was a place of support for these women during whatever stages they were in–whether they were just realizing they were being abused, or planning on how to get out, or already out and still healing. While I was still in the marriage, all I could do was read the posts. I still had a lot of denial to work through, and it took me 2 1/2 years before I was able to join the conversation. But the fact that those women were there talking to each other, letting me lurk anonymously and read their stories, saved my life. It would not have been helpful if the board admin had said, “Hey, we’re going to include some writing from abusers who are defending themselves just to keep the conversation interesting.” So I think that, yes, you should keep the focus on people who have left. Why? Because you CANNOT have a civil discussion with someone who is abusive or who is defending abuse. Most of us are here because we are recovering from the religious trauma of trying to have those conversations.

    People who are still in spiritually abusive situations may still be struggling with denial; in the meantime, Calulu, just be. Keep the conversation going by having people’s stories light the way to freedom. IMO, that’s the most powerful thing you can do.

  • I have no problem whatsoever with the posting of the open letter.

    It was instructive and a reminder of what many readers have left. I know some people found the letter painful but I think it was helpful to see how those who still love jack Hyles respond to Linda Murphrey. Linda Murphrey is to be praised for being willing to expose what really went on behind closed doors in the Hyles home and at First Baptist Church of Hammond. I know she is paying a heavy price for doing this. I am very familiar with the wrath of the IFB when a person dares talk about where the bodies are buried.

  • Tori

    I think the single most important message is “you are not alone in this, see? You are not weird, or wrong in any way for being angry, you are not flawed”.

  • I’ll join the people saying, if you think something interesting was said, you might want to highlight that, and if you disagree with something important also, you might want to mention as such. The hazardous part for abuse survivors is the impression of tacit agreement with sentiments like “you’re not a REAL victim unless you were beaten and starved”, not the exposure to the existence of other viewpoints.

  • newcomer

    For all of the abuse that Jenny personally suffered, neither that nor her beliefs should give her carte blanche to attack another abuse survivor as was done in her open letter. I can absolutely understand wanting to keep this blog from turning into a group-think sounding board, wanting to offer other perspectives and opinions, wanting to make this a place where abused people still within Fundamentalism don’t feel so alienated that they don’t find the help that they need. All of those things are worthy aims, but if they come at the expense of this being a safe space for abuse survivors, a place where they aren’t blamed or silenced or denied, this will stop being a healing place for ANYONE. What people do choose to share will be more guarded, more edited, less true, because they won’t feel safe to tell the truth without having to face a gauntlet of personal attacks for doing so. Without your refusal to act as a sounding board to these kinds of attacks, this place will become an extension of the abuse that they’ve already suffered more than enough of. Jenny’s letter, more than anything else, embodied the very things that many people have come here to escape from. Many, many abusers were themselves abused, and her letter was a perfect example of this. I have no doubt that it came from a place of deep seated pain, which I am truly sorry that she still feels so keenly. I also fervently hope she can find ways to deal with it that aren’t nearly as harmful as this letter was. If you want this to remain a safe space for survivors, it is critically important that you make it absolutely clear that the kind of attacks in Jenny’s letter are completely unacceptable, and stand by that.

  • Michelle M


  • fwtbc

    Gross gross gross.

    I just went back and read both open letters. Jenny’s letter was, and there’s no nice way to put this, fucking repulsive, and I find this quasi-apology to be rather pissweak and pretty damn repulsive too.

    If you had to post it, there should’ve been big loud alarm bells shrieking “TRIGGER WARNING, TRIGGER WARNING, REPULSIVE INDIVIDUAL BEING REPULSIVE AHEAD!”

    I mean, what the hell is this?

    It wasn’t posted because we 100% agreed with everything in it. But it did have some valid points and started off some interesting conversations in the comments.

    It’s hard to not read this as “We disagreed with some things, but on the most part we thought it was pretty good.”

    The fact that a trigger warning wasn’t added until later, and even then it seemed understated, it makes me question your judgment. I’m like Alison Cummins. Never religious, never spiritually abused, and I found Jenny’s letter very difficult to read. It was toxic, highly-concentrated venom and should’ve only been cited to explain why.

  • madame

    I agree with your assessment of Jenny’s open letter. She is someone who was hurt deeply (and is still hurting) by the leadership of the First Baptist Church that Linda’s father pastored. I think that posting a link to her letter in response to Linda’s was a good idea, but posting the whole letter wasn’t very wise. I agree with those who have suggested warning that the original post linked to is triggering, and only posting the excerpts you think may be interesting to readers here. I think that publishing something like Jenny’s letter is different from publishing a provocative statement made by a leader, as is done in “Quoting Quiverfull” posts. It’s fine to tear apart a doctrine, but not the words (or the character) of someone we claim to want to help.
    I hope that makes sense!

    I’ve been around since NLQ first started and keep coming back for a while every now and then. There always comes a point where I feel I need a break, and there are posts where I feel I’d rather keep my opinion to myself because I know I’ll be lynched if I try to offer a different perspective. This isn’t a safe place to express a different view (unless you are a seasoned debater and can sling mud straight back!)

  • suzannecalulu

    I hear you Madame. Sometimes I get posting fatigue and post things that fall into my hands without deep thought. I post two to three times every single day regardless of holidays or vacations. I’m doing this to help Vyckie out and sometimes make missteps. It’s not like this is making me rich. It is a thankful task many days, particularly when people attack your judgement. So from now on if it’s highly triggering and from someone not in recovery here I’ll just post links and excerpts here.

  • Mary C

    “Make no mistake, Jenny has suffered from bad theology and spiritual abuse as much as most of us here have. I was saddened to see her being piled up on, that she was spiritually abused all over again by some of the comments.”

    It is…interesting…to me that you are saddened by comments that you say spiritually abused Jenny all over again – but you do not express any sadness towards the spiritual abuse that Jenny’s letter did to Linda? It is almost as if you cannot see that Jenny’s letter is just chock FULL of victim shaming. She piled on Linda in a huge way. Its not that Jenny did not have a valid experience as well, it is HOW she presented it that was the problem. She didn’t just say “Jack Hyles hurt me too,” she found it necessary to invalidate and tear apart the abuse experience of another victim while doing so. Shoot, she accused someone who was a CHILD at the time of the abuse as being part of the problem! And that is why publishing the letter as “an important viewpoint” crossed the line.

    “In recent discussions Vyckie and I have been discussing the best ways to draw those hurting people still in those spiritually abuse situations. How best do we draw them in and make them part of the conversation?”

    I guarantee that it is NOT by what you did in publishing and then defending Jenny’s letter – basically demonstrating that if they do open up and share their experience, that they are fair game to be attacked by anyone who doesn’t like them. As someone who has only been a lurker on NLQ before Jenny’s letter, maybe one of the people you’d like to draw into the conversation, I can say that your publication and subsequent defense of Jenny’s letter made me question whether I ever wanted to come back to this blog again.

    I can understand that your position is a volunteer one, and that you get posting fatigue. In that case, I think it would be much better to just take a step back, even if means one or no posts on some days, so that you have a chance to reflect and re-gain your perspective. Quality over quantity any day.

  • Gerry

    I am stil trying to wrap around your comment that Jenny was spiritually abused by some of the comments about her letter. And I don’t get it. To state where I come from. I’n not a Christian. So lets see what Jenny’s letter says about the likes of me and some of my friends, who are gay:

    Jenny: “In fact, it’s not fundamentalism everyone is really railing against; that’s just a code word for the fact that they’re unwilling — no; they refuse — to come out from among the worldlings, and be separate, and to touch not the unclean thing.

    They’d rather use the sinful world’s crude language, and tipple socially, and take up for the poor misunderstood homosexuals, and dress revealingly, and indulge in immorality, and just in general be cool, than identify with Christ and His sufferings — not to mention His holiness. They do not hear the call to righteousness issued to every Christian because they’re not about to tune in to that station.

    Later she states this road leads to hell. Now she is free to believe that. Its her life, but don’t expect me to respect this poison. Or don’t say anything about it because this might hurt Jenny’s feelings. If I were trying to free myself of the grip of fundamentalism and I would read this post, I would never come back here again, because my conclusion would bee that this site thinks there is nothing wrong with this kind of thing. I read the discussion, I read the blog above. And I truly get the idea that the writer of this post thinks Jenny’s way of thinking is fine. As there is so much concern with Jenny and how the comments on that letter were abusive again. And no thouhgt at all for the abuse in the letter, not only to Linda, but to everybody who does not believe in her particular brand of fundamentalism.

  • madame

    To Jenny, we are all on the wide path that leads to hell. That is what she has been taught, and that is what she believes. She thinks that pointing that out to us is the most loving thing she can do. It takes a major shift in one’s thinking to break away from those beliefs, and breaking away is scary. What if I’ve now joined the millions going down the broad path to hell?
    Reading those paragraphs from Jenny’s open letter was hard for me. I still fear I’m on the WRONG side, but going back to the RIGHT side would be to accept a God that doesn’t fit into God being love.